"I want to make a case for solutions journalism to become a credible tool in the armoury of the daily news journalist," said Jonathan Paterson, editor, digital video, BBC News, speaking at Newsrewired (6 March).
Recent solutions-focused journalism projects at BBC aimed to put a twist on how national and global topics can be reported and on connecting with younger audiences.
Reaching those young demographics has been made simpler by the clever combination of solutions journalism and social media feeds, according to Paterson.
"How do we respond to a tragic situation in a world of the like button, where audiences shy away from negative stories?" he asked.
As an example, Paterson showed audiences that BBC News video on ‘Norway’s plastic waste solution’ manages to uphold rigorous journalism in the solutions style, all while performing well on social media.
Totalling more than 70 million views, 50,000 comments and 239,000 shares across all Facebook accounts, the story ranks as one of the BBC’s most successful videos in 2018.
Elsewhere, the BBC’s coverage of rising Accident & Emergency waiting times and overcrowding provided another example of how solutions reporting acknowledges the context of an issue but offers the audience a different afterthought.
BBC health team managed to find and report how a Bournemouth hospital has introduced a medical team as the first point of contact to alleviate pressure and demands on the A&E service.
"How, on long-running stories, do we follow our instincts and tell something new?" Paterson asked.
"How do we avoid wallpaper? Just another overcrowded hospital — does solutions journalism have the answer?"
It seems that BBC is starting to think it does, seeing real value from an editorial and audience perspective.
"They don’t deny the problem, the problem is the starting point for those films," he said.
"Overcrowded A&E’s and environmental impact of plastics are successfully lodged in public consciousness and in both those films, we were offering something new — a new take which I think is still in the finest traditions of journalism."
That said, BBC is not under the same pressure to make solutions journalism profitable given that the broadcaster is publicly funded. Instead, it aims to provide a template of what rigorous solutions journalism can look like and how it can compete for attention on social media.
For now, Paterson is pleased with how the audience responded to these stories and left a parting thought for Newsrewired delegates.
"I’ll leave you with a challenge because the challenge is how we develop the commissioning model that can deliver these solutions journalism stories in that daily news environment with the news agenda that we know and work with."
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